Sgt. Guy Higgins of the United States Marines Force Recon Unit has proudly served his country for 8 years, trekking all over remote regions of the world as a lethal, steadfast Scout Sniper.

But although he fulfilled his duty as an American during nine deployments of decorated, deeply classified military service, Higgins realized he wasn’t fully committing to the other two jobs he signed up for: husband and father.

“I had spent most of my life training non-stop to prepare for the next fight,” says Higgins, a semifinalist in the 2015 Search for the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy. “But I was losing a piece of my family every time I did. About a year ago, I realized I needed to stop getting ready for what was next and really be a part of what was right there in front of me.”

Higgins enlisted in the Marines straight out of high school. He swiftly became an expert marksman, plying his trade with the utmost accuracy on missions most Americans won’t ever know a thing about. 

Even today, most of his work remains secret. “The real bread and butter of being a sniper is this: Are you able to take that shot-that perfect shot-when it needs to happen? I am able to do that,” says Higgins, now 27.

Nearly a decade of being a gladiator at the frontlines forged in Higgins an unshakeable mindset: “There’s an enemy out there, and he is trying to kill you or your brothers.” But that mentality was often at odds with the tenderness required by marriage and fatherhood.

A few years ago, Higgins lost four brothers during a grim and fatal deployment in Afghanistan. While the faces of the fallen haunted his memories, Higgins felt himself drifting away from his family.

One night while deployed, Higgins was dressing for sleep, poking a leg in his pajama pants. A tiny Hello Kitty sock tumbled out of the foot-hole. It was his daughter’s. 

Weeks later, Higgins learned his son was becoming a marksman in his own right, working a bow and arrow with surprising precision-but without his dad’s presence or guidance. 

“I was missing all the things I was presumably fighting for,” Higgins says. “In the Marines, you see the problem, and you bring the solution. I was in a place where I knew my family needed a solution.”

Related: 12 Signs You Need to Stop Working So Much

So a year ago, Higgins channeled his devotion from the frontlines to the homefront and became a Pre-Scout Sniper Instructor at 1st Marine Division Schools in Camp Pendleton, California.

It’s a job that allows him to share his years of hard-earned expertise with the next generation of Marines, while spending more quality time with his young family.

“All my life, I’ve wanted to be the very best and to come out alive, mission accomplished,” Higgins says. “If I’m the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy, I think it’s because I’ve come to place where I know completely that I can be a Marine and a family man. It’s about being fully committed and present for both.”

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